A 19-year-old girl by the name of Esther Khonje from Duka Kaluwa Village, Traditional Authority Mtwalo in Mzimba District has gone back to school after dropping out due to pregnancy and early child marriage in 2017. Esther who wished to be a nurse got pregnant by a married man who took her as his second wife when she was in standard 8 at an under age of 17
Esther went back to school through her friends who are under the Spotlight Initiative of an adolescent accountability platform called IFENSO which UNICEF in partnership with PACHI are implementing in the area. She explains; “By the time I dropped out I was 17, I went to be with my husband who made me a second wife, later on my father died and I had no hope. I left marriage after nine months and went back home. My school mates brought me back to school through PACHI’S initiative called IFENSO.”
Esther in class with her friends at Elangeni Primary school, Mzimba
Chairlady of Elangeni’s IFENSO platform in Mzimba known as Patricia Banda aged 19, said that members of the platform decided to take an initiative to encourage their friends who had dropped out of school to go back to school. This includes Esther who is acknowledged as one of the brightest in class after being enlighten in the platform that when one has dropped out of school they go through a lot of emotional trauma. This made them realize that it’s not right to abuse their fellow adolescents, by making jokes on those that got impregnated or dropped out for other reasons too. They took up an initiative to go around nearby villages in search of their friends that dropped out of school from various reasons and introduced them to IFENSO platform, after the discussions Esther was encouraged to go back to school and she is receiving all the support from schoolmates and teachers.
Sinkhani Mkosi, member of the Elangeni IFENSO platform is advising the nation to stop accusing adolescents for dropping out of school, instead they should encourage them. This is one of the reason why most adolescents do not go back to school. In her remarks she says; “Receiving bad comments from teachers and friends in class forces many to leave school. Through IFENSO Platforms, learners realized that it is their right to help in avoiding early pregnancies and early child marriage. In cases where there are some that are already pregnant or have kids but don’t have access to school come to realize that it is our right to participate in the community, in helping these girls and boys back to school, create a good environment for them as well, treat them as everyone.”
These platforms have been established in primary and secondary schools in 6 districts of Malawi which are Dowa, Machinga, Nsanje, Nkhatabay, Ntchisi and Mzimba and the adolescents are acquiring knowledge on gender based violence, education, health, nutrition, HIV and AIDS, safety and WASH